The Significance of Omega-3s

The Significance of Omega-3s


Combating Depression with Omega-3s

 Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health – specifically brain health and development.[1] Additionally, the Omega-3’s regulate behavior and neurochemical aspects related to mood disorder, stress responses, depression, and aggression. However, the caveat associated with this vital nutrient is that the Omega-3 is not produced by the human body and MUST be supplemented though outside sources.

The Omega-3’s are a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid found in high concentration within the gray matter of the brain. According to Earl Mindell, RPh PhD, author of Earl Mindell’s Supplement Bible, DHA is instrumental in the function of brain cell membranes, which are important for the transmission of brain signals.”[2] These fatty acids make cell membranes more fluid, which helps improve communication between the brain cells.

Our brains are 60 percent fat and require essential fatty acids, especially DHA, for optimal functional. As a whole, Americans do not have nearly enough fish in their diets, and therefore are not receiving enough brain-boosting Omega-3’s. The correlation between mood disorders and Omega-3 deficiencies have been well documented throughout the past 15 years, with major studies depicting the prominent role they play in mental health. Omega-3’s help to regulate mood by increasing serotonin levels, thereby relieving depression.[3] By boosting levels of neurotransmitter dopamine in the frontal cortex, Omega-3’s can increase overall energy and motivation. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland, individuals lacking in DHA have an increased rate of impulsive and erratic behavior, including increased aggression and suicide attempts.[4]

In a series of studies, Dr. Andrew Stoll, a Harvard psychiatrist, found that individuals with Mood Disorders were greatly benefited by following a regimen of fish oil capsules, asserting that relapse rates of manic depression episodes have been drastically reduced.[5] In addition, Stoll equates the effects of fish oil to that of the drug Lithium, where neurons in the brain are modulated to conventional levels.

At 180 Degree Nutritionals, we decided to expand our demographic and look outside of the United States for worldwide health rates and statistics. We realized that in order to study the true health of a nation, one has to look no further than the country’s dietary habits. More often than not, the correlation between dietary staples (or lack thereof) and illness go hand-in-hand. The people of Japan, for example, experience one of the lowest rates of Mood Disorders throughout the world. Compared to the 4.4 percent lifetime prevalence rate of bipolar disorder in the U.S., Japan’s rate is only 0.07 percent.[6] That is an absolutely staggering statistic. We crosschecked all possible lifestyle and cultural indicators for these statistics in order to formulate an adequate conclusion. We analyzed the Japanese workweek as it relates to overall stress levels. As a whole, the nation is consistently ranked as having a more stressful workload due to longer hours and a more resolute work ethic. Japan is a small, overcrowded archipelago with no respite coming from overcrowded conditions in the near future. Over 80% of the nation is covered by dense forest and mountainous terrain, resulting in rampant overpopulation in all aspects of daily life – from living conditions, to mass transportation, to parks, and even graveyards – Japan is literally overflowing with people. In addition, Japanese schools are results-oriented for advancement, and therefore subject the national student body to enormous amounts of time and energy engaging in study.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, how did Japan insulate itself from Mood Disorders? When analyzing their diet, one conspicuous aspect emerged above the fray – Japan consumes an exorbitant amount of fish in comparison to other high-income, developed nations. The average Japanese person consumes roughly 154 pounds of fish per year. Comparatively, the average American consumes only 16 pounds of fish on a yearly basis. Collectively, Japan consumes 12% of the world’s fish, yet they only account for 2% of the world’s population – another staggering statistic.[7] Therefore, the Japanese inhabitants are receiving a far higher level of Omega-3 fatty acids than the rest of the world’s population, and are thus providing the optimal and essential nutrients for their brain.

We then looked at the average U.S. diet and, likewise, were astonished at our discoveries. The typical American diet is laden with Omega-6 fatty acids – namely safflower, corn, canola, and soybean oils – which all contain harmful pro-inflammatory properties. These types of Omega-6’s are dominating the U.S. food supply in the form of processed, mass-produced, and fast food outlets. As a result, we have a disproportionate ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s, besetting the American populace with chronic inflammation, degenerative diseases, and pervasive systemic illnesses. The normal ratio should reside in the range from 1:1 to 5:1. However, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “the ratio now ranges from 20 to 50:1 for most Americans.”[8] The result – the U.S. populace is consuming far too many Omega-6 fats in the form of highly processed vegetable oils with little-to-no nutritional value. The majority of these insidious oils, such as soy and canola, are genetically modified to include dangerous antigens and herbicides.

In a study published by The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet has a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This diet is rich in Omega-3’s due to its heavy emphasis on fish, olive oil, and nuts as dietary staples. A sample-size of 11,000 university students in Spain following the Mediterranean Diet were studied over a period of four years. The results showed drastic improvements in both mental and physical health, with benefits ranging from lower chronic illness, increased memory and cognitive function, and are less likely to developing future heart disease.[9]

180 Degree Nutritionals has compiled a list of Omega-3 rich foods and oils that can be consumed on a daily basis and will dramatically optimize the DHA levels in your brains.



  • Wild Freshwater/Ocean-Caught Fish
    • Salmon
    • Halibut
    • Cod
    • Grouper
    • Sardines
  • Organic, Grass-Fed Meats
  • Organic, Pasture-raised Omega-3 Eggs
  • Walnuts
  • Beans
  • Chia Seeds
  • Unprocessed organic oils – especially extra virgin
  • Avocado/Avocado oil



What can high-omega-3 foods do for you?

  • Reduces inflammation throughout your body
  • Keeps your blood from clotting excessively
  • Maintains the fluidity of your cell membranes
  • Lower the amount of lipids (fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides) circulating in the bloodstream
  • Decrease platelet aggregation, preventing excessive blood clotting
  • Inhibit thickening of the arteries by decreasing endothelial cells’ production of a platelet-derived growth factor (the lining of the arteries is composed of endothelial cells)
  • Increase the activity of another chemical derived from endothelial cells (endothelium-derived nitric oxide), which causes arteries to relax and dilate
  • Reduce the production of messenger chemicals called cytokines, which are involved in the inflammatory response associated with atherosclerosis
  • Reduce the risk of becoming obese and improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin by stimulating the secretion of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate food intake, body weight and metabolism, and is expressed primarily by adipocytes (fat cells)
  • Omega-3’s help prevent cancer cell growth.
  • Low levels of DHA demonstrate learning difficulties and visual problems
  • DHA is crucial in fetal brain development, that lack of omega-3 could be putting us at a mental disadvantage before we are even born.
  • Omega-3’s are vital for the development of the brain and retina membranes of the fetus. Thus, the amount of DHA the baby receives depends on the mother’s dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids.


What conditions or symptoms indicate a need for more high-omega-3 foods?

  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Fatigue
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Joint pain


[1] The University of Maryland Medical Center (n.d.). Omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from

[2] Black, A. (2006, January 2). Brain health dramatically improved by intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils. Natural News. Retrieved from

[3] Sathyanarayana Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Jagannatha Rao. (2008, April – June). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry, 50(2): 77–82. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.42391. Retrieved from

[4] Black, A. (2006, January 2). Brain health dramatically improved by intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils. Natural News. Retrieved from

[5] Woolston, C. (n.d.). Fish Oil and Depression. Health Day. Retrieved from

[6] Grohol, J. M. (n.d.). Can Fish Oil Help Your Brain – and Bipolar Disorder? Retrieved from

[7] ibid.

[8] Mercola, J. (2012, January 12). Major Trouble Ahead – if You Don’t Fix This Deadly Deficiency. Retrieved from

[9] Plataforma SINC (2012, May 29). Mediterranean diet is definitively linked to quality of life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

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